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Durham University

Department of English Studies

Event Archive

This is an archive of past events within the Department of English Studies. Please see our current events for forthcoming activities.

Some of our public events are recorded and are available as podcasts via our Research English At Durham blog.

Inventions of the Text

Pythagoras, Palmistry and Pulse-Reading: The Centrality of Magic in Late Medieval Prognostic Medicine

23rd January 2020, 17:30 to 19:00, Seminar Room, Hallgarth House, Dr Joanne Edge (John Rylands Library)

An Inventions of the Text seminar, followed by drinks and dinner. All welcome.

What constituted 'magic' in later Middle Ages, and how did it relate to and overlap with 'science' and 'religion'? A key problem with definitions is that modern categories do not easily map onto the context in the Middle Ages; and so what counted as 'magic' would depend on who you asked. Condemned since the late Roman Empire, magic was seen as counter to Christian doctrine as it was thought to operate via the agency of demons. But in late medieval medical manuscripts, texts and devices that are decidedly magical or divinatory are often found with orthodox Hippocratic and Galenic material based on humoral theory. This paper will set out the manuscript evidence, and provide some possible explanations for, the non-displacement of the occult in the context of late medieval prognosis.
Thursday 23 January, 5.30pm • Seminar Room, Hallgarth House Followed by drinks & dinner. All attendees welcome.

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Related Links


Research in English At Durham (READ) blog showcasing the the literary research emerging from the Department of English Studies


We host a large number of conferences, lectures and seminars each year, many of them open to the public. Find out more on our Events page.


Many of our public lectures, seminars and conferences are recorded, and can be listened to as podcasts.

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Next Event

  • 29th January 2021
  • Title TBC
  • Online (Zoom)
  • Dr Hannah-Rose Murray (University of Edinburgh)